Labret is a form of body piercing. The word labret has been derived from labrum that stands for lip and is also used to refer to any type of jewelry that is worn on the lip or around it. However, when spoken in popular parlance, labrets refers to lip piercing that is done just below the lower lip and slightly above the chin. The popular term tongue pillar is also used to refer to labrets. Though some believe this piercing to be a recent fad, this is not true as a mention of labrets has been found in many ancient cultures. These include the Aztec civilization as well where it was customary for men of good social standing to wear labrets.
These body piercing jewelry pieces were usually made of pure gold and carved into the shape of serpents. Most of these gold labrets were studded with precious stones such as jade or obsidion to reflect the status of the wearer in the social hierarchy. While Aztecs used gold labrets, most African tribes used wooden, ivory or quartz crystal steel bite pro labrets. In some tribes, it is not rare to find women sporting labrets that are made of abalone shell or animal bone. Archeologists have even found labrets made of walrus ivory and obsidian dating back to 8700 BC in Kamchatka and 6400 BC in Iran.
Archeological finding also point towards the used of labrets by the local population of Balkans and Sudan that can be traced back to 5000 BC and 3700 BC respectively. Today, labrets made of wood and ivory are mostly used by a few tribes belonging to the Amazonian region and Africa. Some of these tribes have graduated to wearing lip plates made of wood in the place of relatively inconspicuous labrets. As opposed to the Aztecs where labrets were reserved solely for males, African tribes require women to wear labrets for religious purpose.
Coming to labret piercing, these can be done in many different ways and the labrets can be placed in different parts of the lip. Vertical labrets are by far the most popular form of lip piercing in which the top of the upper lip is pierced. In snake bites labret piercing, twin piercing is made to resemble the sign of a snake bite. Off late, teenagers are also opting for the spider bite labret piercing in which closely spaced dual piercing is made on the same side of the face.
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